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Codeine Addiction And Abuse

Though Codeine is a less potent drug than its relative, Morphine, it still holds powerful and addictive properties; many people abuse it worldwide.

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Understanding Codeine

Codeine is a prescription pain medication used to treat mild to moderate pain. It comes in tablet form and is the main ingredient in prescription-grade cough suppressants. Tylenol 3, a popular Painkiller, is Codeine combined with Acetaminophen. Patients who are prescribed Codeine from their doctors may soon find they’ve developed a Codeine addiction.

Codeine is an Opiate and a Narcotic. Other Opiates include Oxycodone, Heroin, and Morphine. Street names for Codeine include Cough Syrup, Schoolboy, Coties, and T-threes.

Codeine Effects And Abuse

Codeine use often starts out innocently, with a prescription for a Codeine-based cough syrup. Because Codeine is less regulated than some Opiates considered to be more dangerous (such as Morphine and OxyContin), getting and abusing it is relatively easy. This is despite the fact that Codeine is very similar chemically to drugs such as Morphine and Hydrocodone. Though less potent, Codeine provides effects similar to Morphine.

The effects of Codeine include:

  • Euphoria
  • Apathy
  • Drowsiness
  • Relaxation

As an Opiate, Codeine runs a high risk of its users developing a tolerance and, eventually, a dependence on it. Although many people begin using Codeine to relieve a legitimate condition, it is frequently abused as tolerance develops. Many Codeine users begin to turn to the drug to cope with all of their physical pain and, eventually, their emotional pain as well.

Although some people think the drug seems harmless, at high enough doses Codeine use can lead to respiratory failure, coma, and even death. This risk is especially high when Codeine is combined with other Central Nervous System (CNS) Depressants such as alcohol or other Opioids.

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Addiction To Codeine

An addiction to Codeine may develop from continued abuse of the drug in its cough medicine or pill forms. Codeine can lull its users into a false sense of security, as many people do not consider it to be as powerful or as addictive as its Opiate family members.

Codeine is considered a gateway drug to other Opiates, including Morphine and even Heroin.

Many people don’t stop at Codeine. They try to reach a better high by mixing it with other substances, including alcohol. Because Codeine and alcohol are both CNS Depressants, combining them can lead to dangerous levels of depression in the brain and respiratory failure. Learn more about the criteria to diagnose Codeine addiction.

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Codeine And Other Drugs

For some people, Codeine is only a piece of a larger web of addictions. Sometimes, it is the gateway drug into addiction to other substances, especially other Opiates like Oxycodone or Morphine.

Because multiple drugs in a user’s system can change the way treatment is administered, it is important to be honest in discussing all of your addictions with a treatment counselor. No matter what drugs you use, there is a treatment solution available.

Purple Drank

Codeine cough syrup is used to make “Purple Drank.” Purple Drank is a recreational form of the drug made by mixing prescription-grade (Codeine) cough syrup with soft drinks, such as Sprite or Mountain Dew, for consumption in large doses. It is also called Lean, Syrup, and Sizzurp.

Alarmingly glorified in popular culture, Purple Drank has been referenced throughout multiple songs and TV shows. It is mentioned in songs by artists like Lil Wayne and Three 6 Mafia.

Rapper Lil Wayne was admitted to the intensive care unit in March 2013 with seizures and unconsciousness caused by extremely high levels of codeine. Though he survived, he was in critical condition after having his stomach pumped three times to remove the drug from his system.

Codeine Addiction And Abuse Statistics



An estimated 33 million people use Codeine every year.



Roughly 4.7 million Americans reported nonmedical use of prescription Painkillers, including Codeine, according to the 2008 National Survey on Drug Use and Health.



Emergency room visits involving Painkillers increased by 152 percent between 2004 and 2008.

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Overcoming Your Codeine Addiction

Despite the ease with which Codeine can be obtained and the drug’s glamorization in popular culture, it is still a dangerous and potentially deadly drug that can cause lives to spiral out of control. If you’re ready to take your life back from a Codeine addiction, contact a treatment provider today discuss your options.


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